Moss is one of the most common lawn care problems and one that most gardeners will face at some stage. This unsightly problem is often caused by poor lawn health brought on by climatic conditions and poor lawn care practices. Although the weather is beyond our control, we can still give our lawn a head start in the fight against moss by keeping our lawn in tip top condition.
Although moss can be troublesome at any time, it is generally more of a nuisance during the winter and early spring periods, when grass vigour is at its lowest. Therefore it is important to take action before it becomes a problem. The following will help prevent moss:
Improve the drainage and reduce soil compaction with aeration – Like all living organisms moss needs moisture to survive. When the surface of the lawn is prone to wetness and becomes waterlogged, then moss more likely to cause problems. Aerating the lawn will help remove surface wetness and relieve soil compaction, resulting in a reduction in water-logging, and a drier turf surface. Aeration will also help improve rooting and encourage thatch breakdown, again helping in the battle against moss.
- Scarify to control the thatch layer – Scarifying also known verti-cutting or raking is actually carried out to remove dead moss following treatment. It is also used to remove thatch from the lawn. Thatch is a layer of organic matter that builds up overtime. When this layer becomes too excessive, then it starts to become spongy, holding moisture on the base of the lawn. Reducing this moisture holding ability is important in moss prevention and control.
- Removing the causes of shade – Excessive shade, especially during winter when sunlight is in short supply to begin with, is another cause of moss invasion. Moss is highly competitive on shaded sites over grass. If possible thin back any tree limbs or large shrubs that may be blocking out light to the lawn. Another remedy that may also help is to over-seed the lawn with a special grass mixture for shaded lawns. A mixture such as this should perform better in situations where shade is an issue.
- Ensure the lawn has adequate nutrition (fertiliser) – Lawns, like all plants need feed to stay healthy, so it is important that they are fertilised periodically. During the spring and summer a high nitrogen feed should be applied and in autumn a feed that contains a high percentage of Phosphate and Potash should be applied to help maintain good health during the winter.
- Mow at a sensible height – Although there is no set height to mow a lawn, it is important to avoid mowing it too low as this can weaken the grass leaving it thin and weak. This is especially true during times of stress such as droughty conditions. It is also advisable to raise the height of the mower a little during the autumn leaving the lawn a little longer during the winter months when grass vigour is at its lowest.
- Irrigate during drought – Long dry hot periods during the summer can put the grass under enormous stress resulting in widespread grass loss. This is why it is important to irrigate before this happens. As a general rule it is better to give the lawn a good soaking letting the water soak right into the rootzone then letting it dry out a little before the next application.
In a nutshell it is important to maintain optimum lawn health and encourage a thick coverage of grass by carrying out good lawn care practices as outlined above to help keep moss in check.